They settled on US$43.5 million because the annual average is $8.7 million, which corresponds to the No. 87 sweater the superstar centre wears.
“That seems like a pretty good number,” a satisfied Crosby said from his parents’ Cole Harbour, N.S., home during a conference call Tuesday. “It’s kind of unique.”
GM Ray Shero was tickled pink that he could get the sport’s biggest attraction under wraps till 2013 without paying the maximum. Crosby generously allowed him some wiggle room so he might have a buck or two left when it comes time to re-sign last season’s rookies Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.
Next winter, Crosby will complete the three-year, entry-level contract that is paying him US$850,000. The extension then kicks in, and it is richly deserved given what he’s accomplished in only two years in the NHL.
In piling up 120 points last season, the smooth-skating centre became the youngest scoring champion in league history. He’s the youngest MVP since Wayne Gretzky in 1980, and he also was voted most outstanding player in a poll of NHL Players’ Association members. The bonuses he cashed in on multiplied his base take by as much as four times.
Crosby, who turns 20 on Aug. 7, is determined to not allow his newfound wealth to change his approach to life.
“I don’t think it’s going to change a whole lot,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a lot of money but, at the same time, my attitude and how I approach things, I don’t think that’s going to change.”
He might find otherwise next July 1 when he’s handed a cheque for US$5 million as a signing bonus for putting his signature on the extension.
“Sidney could have done a longer term, 10 years for that matter, but he’s only 19,” said agent Pat Brisson. “It’s only fair to him to go on a five-year extension at this stage of his career.
“Five years from now, his life might be different.”
For each of the first four seasons of the extension, Crosby will be paid $9 million, with the first year including the $5-million bonus. He’ll get $7.5 million in 2012-2013.
Brisson could have bled the Penguins for more but Crosby didn’t want to leave Shero with empty pockets.
“He could have signed for a million or so more a year but he wants to help the team build a winner,” said Brisson. “By doing what he did, it’s another sign of his leadership.
“He’s giving the cook enough ingredients to bake a nice cake.”
The cook was appreciative.
“His ability to give back and leave something on the table is a great tribute to him,” Shero said from Pittsburgh. “Sidney is interested in winning the Stanley Cup and this is a great first step.
“If the salary cap goes up again, it’ll create that much more room for us to do things.”
Crosby was elated to get the extension out of the way.
“It feels great, especially with the group of guys we have,” he said. “I’ll be able to grow with them.
“It’s exciting. It’s a great place and I really enjoy my time there. To have this sense of security, it really feels good.”
The NHL-NHLPA collective bargaining agreement stipulates that the total contract amount is to be averaged for annual inclusion under each team’s salary cap. Taking averaging into account, Crosby will be the highest-paid player in the NHL when his extension kicks in.
“Maybe (by 2013) Sidney can be wearing 15,” kidded Brisson, musing about Crosby’s annual pay down the line if he keeps performing at such a uniquely high level.
The deal goes through 2012-13. In agreeing to it, Crosby relinquished one year of unrestricted free agency.
“It was important to do what was right for everyone,” he said. “We tried to find a balance.
“It’s fair for everyone. Maybe we’ll have the opportunity now to have a guy there who might (otherwise) not be there. We have so many good young players. Ray has a tough job to keep everyone there. We all want to be there. Hopefully, this is a step in that direction.”
Crosby responded in French to a question when a reporter asked him to do so during the conference call.
He was named captain of the Penguins last May, becoming the youngest team captain in NHL history. He’s the youngest player in NHL history to record 100 and 200 career points.
Pittsburgh won 25 more games last season than they had a year earlier and finished with 47 more points. The Penguins were eliminated in the first playoff round by eventual Stanley Cup finalist Ottawa.
When the free-agent market opened July 1, they signed $5-million, two-year deals with right-winger Petr Sykora and defenceman Darryl Sydor. They also re-signed veteran forwards Gary Roberts and Mark Recchi. The moves have encouraged Crosby.
“We’re going to go to camp with the same mentality as last year – with something to prove,” said Crosby.
He had no plans to party to celebrate the contract extension. That wouldn’t be his style.
“I’m going to spend some time with my parents,” he said.
Crosby helped Canada win world junior gold in 2005 and he made his NHL debut in October that year after being the No. 1 entry draft selection. He scored 39 goals and assisted on 63 in his rookie season. He played for Canada at the 2006 world championship and became the youngest player ever to lead the tournament in scoring.
He had 36 goals and 84 assists in winning the scoring title last season.
Other signings Tuesday:
-Brendan Shanahan re-signed with the Rangers. The 38-year-old Torontonian had 29 goals and 33 assists last season and became an unrestricted free agent July 1.
-Vitaly Vishnevski, a free-agent defenceman who split last season with Atlanta and Nashville, signed a US$5.4-million, three-year contract with the New Jersey Devils.
-Joe Motzko, a forward who was a healthy scratch by Anaheim for much of its playoff run to the championship, signed a two-year deal with Washington.